FORT LAUDERDALE — The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) has completed an internal investigation into complaints by five female employees accusing its chaplain, Rick Braswell, of inappropriate conduct, creating a hostile work environment and other allegations.
A number of former female employees filed similar complaints, according to sources. One of these women took a vacation and did not return to work. Another claimed she was fired after making her complaint.
“No one would help me,” the fired employee told South Florida Times, speaking on a condition of anonymity. “After I filed the complaint, they told me I was being terminated and then escorted me out of the office. They have kept it quiet — and people will really be surprised [to hear about it].”
According to some of the women, their complaints ranged from allegations that Braswell was rude to them, used insulting language, yelled at them, talked to them in a disrespectful manner and kicked the chair one of them was sitting in.
Contacted Wednesday, Braswell said, “I don’t have any comment. Seriously, no disrespect to you, but I really can’t discuss it because it’s being investigated.”
South Florida Times requested copies of the investigation’s summary and findings from BSO but without success. “When and if documents become available to satisfy your public records request, I will let you know,” BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said in an email.
The complaints were filed with BSO’s Office of Equal Opportunity and the investigation reportedly found merit to some of the allegations, the specific details of which are unknown at this time. “Stacks of emails” played a key part in the findings, sources said.
BSO has refused to release Braswell’s photograph for this story, invoking a state law that exempts police officers’ pictures from disclosure. Yet Braswell routinely makes public appearances and there is no record of his ever being a law enforcement officer.
Braswell has worked for BSO since 1989, when the late former sheriff, Nick Navarro, hired him as a caseworker. In 1990, he became the department’s full-time chaplain and currently earns $103,438 a year.
He has preached at many funerals and counseled hundreds of grieving families for numerous law enforcement agencies from Euless, Texas to the U.S. Treasury Department. Over the years, he has gained the respect of thousands of people. But he has also seen controversy before.
While serving as the city of Fort Lauderdale police department’s chaplain, Braswell was at the center of a controversy involving a marriage between a white police officer and a black administrative assistant who worked in the property division.
“I had gone to him and asked him to marry us and he said okay, no problem. He said we’d have to go through some counseling before the wedding,” the officer, Rick Kosec, who no longer works with the department, said in an interview with South Florida Times.
Kosec said the first meeting took place at First Baptist Church in northeast Fort Lauderdale, where Braswell served also as the director of outreach. Another Fort Lauderdale police officer was present to assist with the counseling.
“When we showed up at the church, it was the first time he had seen her,” Kosec said, referring to his fiancée, Ruby.
Kosec said he and his fiancée were told about the counseling process and asked to call back to schedule the sessions. They made several efforts to reach Braswell but he did not return their calls or respond to messages they left.
As reports of the issue spread within the department, some officers began speculating about why the calls were not being returned, and why Braswell would not preside over the nuptials of the interracial couple.
“I had a captain actually walk up to me and say it wouldn’t be a good idea if you get married to Ruby,” Kosec said.
Kosec said he and Ruby eventually had to get a bank employee, who was also a notary, to marry them. The Kosecs still live in Broward County and Rick Kosec said they have never received an explanation or heard from Braswell since.
“I just didn’t think he was comfortable with the interracial thing and he decided not to do the wedding because of pressure,” Kosec said.
Asked to comment on this issue, Braswell said he didn’t have a clear recollection of the matter.
“I don’t believe that was the case,” Braswell said, when asked if he refused to marry the couple because they were of different races. “It’s been a long time ago, so I really don’t know what happened.”
Asked if he holds any opinions against race-mixing Braswell said, “No, I don’t believe so, no.”
**Pictured above is BSO Chaplain Rick Braswell